4 things Alabama must fix from the Texas A&M game
Lee Corso was right when he said last month that Alabama was beatable. That’s the bad news for the Crimson Tide since it was proven true against Texas A&M. The good news is that Corso called Alabama the best team in the country on Saturday. Those statements may sound contradictory, but they’re not. Both are true. Kudos to Corso.
I would still take Alabama to beat any team in the country despite its 41-38 loss to the Aggies on Saturday. You should, too. Why? This isn’t the leather-helmet days of college football. There is a College Football Playoff. An early-season loss was once a reason to throw in the towel. Now, it’s a call to action to get serious. With coach Nick Saban at the helm, I expect the Tide will do just that.
Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M on Saturday was definitely a shocker. The Aggies were 17.5-point underdogs and looked like a team ready to implode after consecutive losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State. With all championship hopes likely out the window, surely it was time for the Aggies to wilt into the hot Texas night. That didn’t happen. Not even close.
With a win over No. 1 Alabama, it’s not impossible to think the Aggies could sneak into the College Football Playoff. (That remote possibility only exists in a world in which Alabama loses again, the Aggies run the table, win the West on a tiebreaker and then take out No. 1 Georgia in the SEC title game. So, yeah, quite unlikely.) However, I’m guessing the true contender for a national championship title was clad in crimson — not maroon — on Saturday.
If you’re ready to jump off of the Alabama bandwagon as being the best team in the nation, feel free. From what I’ve seen this season, they’re still the best team in the nation despite Saturday’s loss. Alabama could just use some finetuning.
Here are 4 things that Alabama must do if they want to keep their national championship hopes alive:
Get smarter up front
No one questioned Alabama’s offensive line until Saturday. Now, the scrutiny will come rolling in and it should. However, Alabama doesn’t suddenly have a bad offensive line; they just had a really bad night. Perhaps that was simply poor execution. Perhaps it was just poor coaching by Alabama. The Tide certainly were very slow to adjust. There was also some pretty good coaching by Texas A&M on display. Either way, Bama still has mammoth athletes up front who have proven they can pass and run block with the best of them.
Bama was beaten by a Texas A&M defense that included just about every kind of attack that its coaches could dream up. There were stunts, twists and blitzes that Bama’s offensive line simply wasn’t ready for. The film room will determine whether that’s Bama’s coaches or players fault, but it has to be fixed. Alabama gave up 4 sacks against A&M. That’s unacceptable for a team with championship dreams.
Have a better plan in the red zone
There were times when it seemed like Texas A&M was running a bend-but-don’t-break defense. The Aggies were at their best on defense with their backs against the goal line. That’s exactly when Alabama was at its worst. If Alabama didn’t have to settle for field goals or throw an interception in the red zone, the Texas A&M game would have been very different.
Every team has go-to plays in the red zone. Alabama’s play calls were questionable – to be kind – when they were threatening to score. Alabama had no problem moving the ball until it mattered most. The Crimson Tide had 522 offensive yards. The Aggies’ had 379. Was Bama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien thinking a bit too much about that vacant Southern California job?
Alabama’s offense puts pressure on defenses every time the Crimson Tide snaps the ball. However, Bama’s offense can also put pressure on an opposition’s offense by forcing them to keep up in a high-scoring affair. Bama usually does score early in games but that wasn’t the case on Saturday. The Crimson Tide fell behind 24-10 in the first half. Certainly, the Aggies’ defense was a factor in the slow start, but Bama has to get an early lead to truly reach its potential.
When Bama takes a quick lead, teams get nervous and tend to crumble. Alabama has the big-play ability to take an early, decisive lead. While that’s surely part of the plan, making it happen is another challenge entirely. It certainly didn’t occur in College Station on Saturday.
As cool, calm and collected as Alabama looked in its first 5 games, the Crimson Tide looked rattled Saturday night. Part of that was the Aggies’ aforementioned defensive approach. Part of that was Bama being young in key positions on offense, including quarterback. Part of that was the fact that Bama’s players hadn’t been forced to rally, on the road, in a long time.
Young didn’t look like his usual self. He seemed agitated and unsure. Alabama’s receivers, aside from Jameson Williams, didn’t do much to help him out. Did coaches put too much on Young after his stellar start to the season? If so, it’s time to simplify some things. Bama is the type of program that can rely on talent instead of some exotic offensive approach. The Tide will play at Mississippi State on Saturday. Something tells me Corso will pick the Tide.